Boy, I could rock this post if you had a sister, however it’d be like 10 pages long, and she’d totally ignore it because no girl wants fashion advice from her mother, so this might be better. Personally, I love men’s fashion. I always have. I’m all about the well dressed man. There’s absolutely a time and place for baseball caps and cargos, but when you feel like stepping away from that, I think I can be of some service to you. I realize your future girlfriends will probably get involved too, but let’s give them a little something to work with…
As a general rule let’s just say look nice. That doesn’t mean you can’t wear what’s comfortable, it just means make some semblance of an effort. Your appearance is a message to the world about how you feel about yourself and how you’d like to be perceived. A well dressed man gets noticed. If you look good, you feel good. And believe it or not, you will be taken – and take yourself – more seriously if you’ve made an effort.
There are lots of men to look to for inspiration. Men used to dress very stylishly. Suits and hats were dereguire, and men looked sharp no matter where they went. Then we went through a period of style drought where everything was hideously ugly (the 70’s), or over the top (the 80’s) and then caring about how you looked was somehow frowned upon as vain or unmanly (the hideous grunge 90’s). I personally lived through flannel on flannel and double denim being the height of fashion. We are now entering a phase where men can dress with some attention without fear of mocking or judgement. Style is back, and for that I am very glad.
As far as stylish men to take your cue from (other than your father, who definitely has it going on), you might want to look at: Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Tom Ford, David Bekham, George Clooney, Ryan Renolds, or pretty much anyone on this list from Esquire, my personal favorite men’s mag.
As far as dressing, there are some simple rules beyond the no sandals and socks stuff that can make any outfit look better. These are great things too keep in mind as you put yourself together. This is by no means a complete list, but more of a guideline on which to build your personal sense of style.
Stand up straight – this is something I myself am terrible at, but plan to push on you as much as possible. Own your whole body. Don’t slouch around and diminish what you’ve been given. Be proud of your physique and wear those clothes lest they wear you.
Iron – not your T-shirts or God forbid, your jeans – but your dress shirts and suits (of which you should own at least one fabulously fitting one at all times). Try not to look rumpled unless it’s a deliberate choice you are cultivating a la Johnny Depp. His style may not be my favorite, but at least he’s got one.
Look after your shoes – dingy, dirty, gross shoes say a lot about a man. This is not to say you can’t have well loved, warn in boots – those can be fabulous – but avoid scuffed, uncared for shoes at the bottom of your pants. It screws up everything above them. When it comes to your shoes take some care. You should own a solid collection. I’m not saying be Imelda Marcos. I’m just saying that a pair of sneakers and a some flip flops aren’t going to cut it. Sure you should have trainers for working out, but you should also have a great pair of sneakers to wear with pants and shorts. Dress sneakers I like to call them. You should purchase at least one pair of dress shoes (though black & brown give you more options), and keep them shined and taken care of. I’d also advise making sure they’re both comfortable and something you truly want to wear rather than just a generic “dress shoes” with laces. I’d advise investing in a pair of dress boots too. Sleek ones that can be worn with jeans or a dress pant. Your Dad got a pair of Too Boot NY dress boots two years ago and he’s in love with them. We’d be buying more if we could afford the price tag. Speaking of price tags, invest in a pair of cool, rugged boots like Frys, or the like, that you can wear daily with jeans. Finally finish up the shoe shelf with a summer shoe like Toms or flips (watch out that your feet aren’t gross) and a winter boot to wear in the snow. Sounds like a lot? To be honest, you could have way more and still be nowhere near dandy territory.
Watch the fit of your clothes. Make sure your clothes aren’t too big or too small. Fitted is good. Tight is bad. Loose is good. Baggy is bad. Your clothes should skim your body. Graze your muscles not stick to them. Always try things on before you buy them. You might be a Medium in one store and a Large in another. Get to know what looks good on you and work with that. Just because something’s “in” doesn’t mean you should be in it. Not all people can wear all looks, and the height of style starts at dressing for you not for the trends. Right now super skinny jeans are being seen on men all over town. Your father -who actually has a butt – can not pull these pants off and he knows it. He looks good in a boot cut pant that fits and balances his body. He smartly sticks with what works. Don’t be a fashion victim.
Find a tailor – Fancy? Sure. But a good tailor can make all the difference between looking good and looking great. If something almost fits, you can use a tailor to make it perfect. Narrow out the sleeves, take in the waist. You can not however make a jacket fit your shoulders better. You have to get that right when you buy it.
Buy the best of what you can afford. But remember, just because it’s expensive doesn’t necessarily make it the best. Don’t get caught up in labels. It’s worth paying money for good quality fabrics and workmanship but not for the name in the back – or God forbid across your chest. Things that are worth splurging on are things like suits, shoes, sunglasses, a great pair of jeans, a leather jacket, a blazer and a watch. The things that last, fill out your wardrobe, and make a statement. But for the most part the $29 Gap t-shirt will work just as well as the $100 t-shirt from Vince.
Avoid the color beige or off white. Mostly it just looks like you’re soiled and it flatters few skin tones. Avoid bolo ties, pointy dress shoes, mock turtlenecks, one piece anythings, and any clothes that look like they’ve been tattooed, bedazzled or pre-ripped (I’m talking to you Ed Hardy). Turtlenecks in general are a difficult look to pull off. There are exceptions that work in a knit for a kind of retro-Aspen-ski-vacation vibe, but in general but you might wanna stick with a crew, V, or henley as the neckline for your shirts.
Keep your clothes clean. Unless you rock at laundry (which I don’t, so I have no discernible skills to teach you), find a good dry cleaner for your better stuff. Too many good things have been ruined by inept laundering.
When buying a suit, it’d be my advice to stick with a one or two button, single breasted jacket with flat front pants. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule but more of a strong suggestion. Few men can pull off the double breasted look without looking like gangsters or older business men, and pleated pants are only necessary if you’re doing a 1940’s thing or are overweight and can’t pull off a flat front. When trying a suit on, think about what you need it for. If you’re only going to own one suit, you want it to be multi-seasonal – a 10 month suit if you will – and appropriate for multiple uses. Ask for a shirt and tie when trying it on so you get the real feel and look, and pick a material that you A: like the feeling of and B: is breathable. This is where putting in a couple extra dollars is helpful. A nice black (good color to start with), light weight wool suit can take you so many places. You can wear it with a tie in a formal or business setting. You can wear it with an open shirt to look sharp on the town. You can loosen the tie or wear it with a cool t-shirt (if this is a look you like and can pull off) for a hip downtown vibe, and you can wear both pieces separate from each other as a blazer and pants. A piece of clothing that multipurpose deserves to be splurged on. But, at the very least, consider fit and fabric as your primary goals. I’ve seen your Dad rock a $350 H&M suit because it fits like a glove and he feels good in it. I read in GQ once that wearing a suit doesn’t have to be a lesson in conformity. The note was, “Wear a suit. Don’t look like one.” Take a look at Don Draper played by John Hamm, on the currently popular television show Mad Men. He couldn’t look more like a Man and less like a corporate drone if he tried.
If you can, invest in a tuxedo. Get a great fitting, good quality tuxedo with classic, trim styling. It’s amazing how nice it is to have one of these in your wardrobe and not have to rent one every time you need to dress up. Plus, if you invest in a classic one you feel good in, you’re pretty much set for every formal occasion in the next 15 years if you don’t outgrow it in the girth department. It’d also be my advice to consider the vest over the cummerbund. Few can pull off the satin cinch belt without looking foolish or, at the very least, uncomfortable. A vest or, as we’re seeing more and more these days, just the pants themselves, are great for a cleaner, slicker look. You can then decide if you want to wear a straight or a bow tie – preferably that you tie yourself – and your shirt should have a little pin tuck interest. No ruffles ever. Unless you’re being ironic. Then have at it.
As far as accessories go, consider the following: Glasses can look exceptionally cool. If you have to wear them, really wear them. Don’t pick frames that hide on your face or you hope will fade away. Pick bold frames you can really rock. Your Dad had subtle glasses for a while but always felt nerdy in them. He switched them up for black “geek chic” Ray Ban Wayfarers, and even though it’s a classically nerdier look, he loves them and looks way cooler for it. Personally, I’m big on scarves for men. Big ones in the winter to keep out the cold and thin ones in the warmer months to add to an outfit. A t-shirt and jeans gets a total makeover when you add a scarf. Don’t be afraid of the accessory. It can really elevate an outfit with very minimal effort. A well chosen cuff link or pocket square can be an understated way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Hats are having a resurgence right now. I hope that sticks around. Hats look fabulous on men. Not baseball caps – which have their place and can be cute in a sporty, collegiate way – but real, hat, hats. Find one that balances your body and face. As always, forget what’s hip and figure out what works for you. What goes with your clothes, your life, your personality? Also remember that thicker fabrics, like wool or felt, are good in the fall/winter and the raffia/straw type ones are good in the spring/summer (or if you still live in LA, almost all year round). If you wear one, just be sure to own it and not fuss with it. Finally, jewelry on men is really taking off these days. Personally, I’m a purist in the male bling department, and tend to like the less is more approach. I like elegant watches without jewels, plain wedding bands and the occasional necklace or cuff. I know more and more men are wearing multiple rings, earrings, and bracelets, and that gem stones are finding their way into men’s wardrobes, but I’ll take an understated gentleman over a gilded peacock any day.
Be flexible and aware of dressing for where you are. If you don’t normally dress up for dinner at home (which we only do on holidays) but you’re at someone’s house that does, fall in. We had the opposite thing at the cottage one year when a friend of mine brought her boyfriend for the weekend and he wore slacks and Prada loafers the entire time. He looked good, but totally out of place and came off pretty pomp-y if truth be told. Respect the environment. For our Honeymoon your Dad and I went to Greece and Italy and we didn’t pack any shorts or crew neck t-shirts. Too American. Too casual. Instead we went with the ‘When in Rome’ mentality and dressed like the locals. I wore a lot of skirts and dresses, and your Dad wore a lot of linen pants and polos. He even ended up buying one of those shorty short bathing suits because 2 days into our trip he said he felt like “Joe America” in his huge, oversized surf shorts. Turns out he looked great in his Euro suit. But you have to be willing to bend a bit in order to figure that stuff out.
They say that clothes make the man, but it’s the man himself that’s really important. Be a man worth taking notice of. Be a good man. A stand up man. An honest man. Sure dress well and take care of yourself – your hygiene, your stray hairs, the way you smell – but never hide behind your aesthetic and for goodness sakes smile. You might look terrific but if you’re just Broody McBroody pants, no one’s going to want to hang out with you anyway.
Ultimately, the bottom line of fashion is to make it feel like you. Find your own personal way of dressing that is reflective of who you are. Your style will change as you age but it should always be distinctly and individually Loch.
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” – Mark Twain
I love you baby. Knock em dead!